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The Story of Brian Sipe

The profiling of past Browns players is a regular feature on this page. We have focussed previously on true legends such as Jim Brown and Otto Graham. Today we focus on a different sort of player; one less recognizable to the general public but known intimately by Browns fans. Brian Sipe spent a long time with our Team as a quarterback from 1974 to 1983. During that tenure, Brian threw for a total of 23,713 yards. That is a franchise record. Brian went to college at San Diego State University. He has come full circle as he is currently the QB coach for the San Diego State Aztecs. Sipe was drafted by the Browns in 1972, and not early. He was picked in the 13th round. Brian's future membership in the famous Kardiac Kids was foreshadowed very early on in his career with the Browns. In fact, his first starts as QB in 1974 were the result of him leading the Browns to a dramatic comeback victory against the Broncos on October 27, 1974, when the Team overcame a 12-point deficit. Brian's career with the Browns was not without some bumps on the road. He lost 3 of his first four starts in 1974, causing him to be replaced. The following season in 1975 began like a train wreck for Cleveland. The Team lost 3 consecutive games by a combined total of nearly 100 points. So Brian got another chance to start as QB. Again, that was shortlived. He was sidelined after three straight losses. In 1976, he found himself the back-up again at the start of the season. An injury to starting QB Mike Phipps on September 12, 1976 (opening game) gave Sipe the break of his career. Under Brian the Team won 9 games in 1976, after just three wins the previous season. 1977, however, brought more ups and downs for Sipe. He led the Browns to 5 wins in their first 7 games. Then, on November 13, 1977 at Three Rivers Stadium against the rival Steelers, Sipe was crushed by Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Lambert. It was such a devastating hit that Sipe could barely see afterwards. The hit ended his season. In 1978, the roller coaster ride continued. Brian performed well by passing for almost 3000 yards and 21 touchdowns, but the Team went only 500 at 8-8. The next two seasons, 1979 and 1980, saw the rise of the Kardiac Kids. That designation was in light of the tendency of Sipe and the Browns to win last-minute comeback victories. In 1980, Brian had his best season at QB for the Browns. He passed for more than 4000 total yards. He threw 30 touchdowns. He helped the Team to the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. He won the NFL MVP award. He was selected to the Pro Bowl. But lest we forget what happened on January 4, 1981 in the playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. "Red Right 88" abruptly ended the Browns' season. For more on that infamous moment in Cleveland sports history, you may refer to a prior post on this page titled after the play. In 1981, Brian returned to throw for nearly 4000 yards. But the Team finished with a losing record at 5-11. It seems that the Team just could not recover from what happened against Oakland. In the strike-season of 1982, Sipe hit another low point after winning just 2 of the Team's first 6 games and being benched. Brian regained his starting QB job in 1983. He threw that year for more than 3500 yards and 26 touchdowns. He parted from the Browns on relatively bad terms after signing with the USFL's New Jersey Generals in 1984 (owned by a fellow named Trump). He was displaced by a little QB named Doug Flutie in 1985, who just happened to be the Heisman Trophy winner. Sipe finished his playing career with the Jacksonville Bulls in 1985.

Brian spent a rather tumultuous decade in Cleveland. The ups and downs were many. He will always be remembered for Red Right 88. But we should also remember Brian as one of our longest serving quarterbacks and our franchise record holder for most passing yards. He was a gritty QB who gave us many thrilling moments while leading the Kardiac Kids. His story is emblematic of the long and windy road that is pro football.

Go Browns!

Devo's Cleveland Browns

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